Why you’d want an Audi TT (Mk1)
Based on a shortened VW Golf 4motion platform and aimed squarely at the Porsche Boxster market, the Audi TT was a brilliant derivation of the hatchback. It featured four-wheel drive and a choice of 1.8 turbo engines at first, later joined by a 3.2-litre narrow-angle V6.
Great looks and 2+2 Coupé or two-seat Roadster bodies were combined with Boxster-beating performance. Autocar was impressed, describing it as ‘one of Audi’s most engaging machines in recent times… a handling sensation next to its other performance cars… more alive than any Audi we’ve driven since the original quattro’.
Despite gaining a reputation as a fashion statement rather than a drivers’ car, the TT soon proved to be more popular in Britain than anywhere else and the range of options increased to include front-wheel-drive Roadster and Coupé with 150PS or 180PS, plus Coupé and Roadster quattro with 180PS, 225PS or 3.2 V6 250PS.
Front-drive versions sold in relatively small numbers and came with five-speed ’boxes instead of the six-speed unit of quattros and the sophisticated Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) fitted to most V6s. With standard heated leather seats and a power hood, the Roadster is an appealing way to enjoy fresh-air motoring.
The TT also became a successful racer, Frenchman Laurent Aïello winning the DTM title in 2002.
A few autobahn accidents and questions about its high-speed stability led to an early recall on pre-2000 cars to adjust the suspension, fit ESP electronic stability control and a rear spoiler.
The additions were largely designed to make the steering less direct and the bush size in the front control arms was made substantially larger. There are still a few cars that missed the recall and aren’t adorned with the rear spoiler but they now look a little odd – and the recall didn’t dampen enthusiasm for the model one bit.
The BBC’s Watchdog programme forced Audi to replace faulty dashpods for free on TTs with complete service histories (check this has been done), but today most have been dealt with and over time could well have developed one or more of the TT’s other dashpod faults.
A full service record is highly desirable on all complex modern cars, ideally from main dealers or respected independent specialists. Inspect panel alignment, because poorly repaired accident damage will come back to haunt you.
Be wary of modifications: have they been done well, has the car been thrashed, and what extra stresses are being put on other components?
There should be two keys and an emergency key, plus the radio code. Check that the remote locks and unlocks both doors as well as the bootlid. Also confirm that the warning triangle, jack, tools, compressor and tyre foam are in the boot.
Images: Tony Baker
Additional writing: Richard Roberts
Audi TT (Mk1): what to look for
See above for trouble spots.
Audi TTs were for many years regarded as being corrosion resistant, but as they’ve got older there are certain areas that have started to show their age.
Poorly repaired crash damage is always a problem with a high-powered sports car, but there are other areas that need close scrutiny. The lower edges of the substantial sill covers are collectors of mud and debris, and also take a battering from gravel and other road debris.
Unscrewing the plastic arch liners will likely find a substantial amount of damp mud that helps accelerate rust. Cleaning behind the plastic arch liners and a liberal coating of rust preventative will help extend their life.
Replacement sill covers are easy to fit, but undamaged and rust-free ones are becoming surprisingly scarce and the prices are creeping up.
Check the front wheelarch lips for corrosion, and the lower rear quarter panels and bootlids by the numberplate lights, areas where corrosion often goes unspotted until quite advanced.
The roof rails on the coupé have always been a weak point and age hasn’t improved this – once the rust has started it needs removing, treating and repainting, otherwise it will return.
The 1.8 engine originally came in 180 and 225bhp flavours, and in real life the difference is minimal, although the 180 will be cheaper because it is perceived as being less desirable. All but the early 180s also have the six-speed ’box. Don’t dismiss a car just because it’s a 180bhp version.
On all 1.8s the cambelt, tensioner and water pump should be changed every 60,000 miles or six years. It is an expensive job because there is so little room in the engine bay and so is often overlooked – budget £400-500 from a reputable specialist. If there is no evidence of it being done, then do it – a snapped belt on an interference engine will be expensive.
Look for oil leaks around the inlet manifold and the injector ports, as well as the cam cover. There is a nest of vacuum hoses beneath that plastic engine cover, and perished pipes and broken connectors can cause a multitude of error codes.
There’s plenty of internet wisdom about removing or bypassing valves/pipes but do so at your peril. The TT Forum is a great resource for any TT owner and has friendly, enthusiastic members.
Beware of badly mapped cars – a nicely remapped Audi TT is a pleasure to drive with dollops of extra power and torque, but too many are poorly set-up with generic maps.
Alternator failure is usually just the regulator. It was such a regular failure point that at one time they were carried by AA vans and are an easy fix.
Dipstick tubes go brittle with age and can snap off causing substantial oil leaks. Misfires have historically been attributed to failing coil packs, but as these cars age you might find it is also the wiring in the injector loom breaking down and shorting out.
Turbos are long lived, so long as the oil is changed at the appropriate intervals.
The rear engine ‘dog-bone’ mount can fail and makes it feel like there’s lots of slop in the driveline as the engine moves back and forth.
Check that the fans are cutting in – the fan control unit, buried in the engine bay, fails in the ‘off’ position and allows the car to overheat. Thermostats have been known to fail and stick open, but are a relatively easy fix.
A permanently illuminated traction-control light normally indicates MAF failure.
Well-maintained units exceed 200,000 miles. The V6 is robust but suffers from cam-chain stretch, which needs plugging in to diagnose and is expensive to fix – budget £1000.
The suspension, like all VAG cars of that era, is known to snap springs.
Again, beware of poorly modified cars running budget coil-overs which will ruin the ride and handling of an otherwise very capable car.
Decent aftermarket suspension, such as Spax adjustable dampers, enhances the ride and handling – although dropping too low will mess up the geometry and wear tyres unevenly.
The front wishbones have a front and rear bush. The rear ones are an easy fix to replace (make sure you lubricate the polybushes otherwise they will squeak!). While you’re at it you can replace the front bushes – these are the big rubber bushes added as part of the early safety recall and it’s possible to sleeve them down to the original size which does wonders for turn in and steering feel.
The anti-roll bar bushes and drop links are known to fail, but are a cheap and easy fix. Fitting thicker anti-roll bars from an R32 Golf of similar vintage is a popular modification.
Pre-facelift 180s and 225s had 16- or 17-inch wheels, post-facelift and 3.2s wore 18s. Front-wheel drive 150s had 16-inch wheels as standard.
They are relatively easy to pick up but are getting to the age where alloy corrosion is likely the cause of slowly deflating tyres, rather than a puncture. There are plenty out there and budget £50 each for a good refurb, preferably in the original silver.
Electrical issues are common and that dashpod that caused problems when new is often an ongoing issue.
Missing pixels from the centre display, under-reading fuel and temperature gauges and total failure are all fixable at a reasonable price and with lifetime warranties for a few hundred quid.
Alarm sirens live by the rear wheel and many are mostly dead, so your TT sat with flashing indicators should probably also be sounding its alarm siren.
The door-lock mechanism has a microswitch that causes the glass to drop a couple of millimetres when opened and to go up when closed to create a weathertight seal. The microswitches fail, which also means the car doesn’t know when the door has been opened and then locks itself. Not great if the keys are inside. The switches are available on eBay for about £10 and, whilst fiddly, are quite simple to fix.
Leaky roadsters permit water onto the Body Control Module which works the central locking, the fuel-cap release and the windows – if these aren’t working, hopefully it just needs drying out.
There is a wealth of information accessible from the diagnostic module built into the climatronic system – Google it – and it is fascinating what readings you can get, as well as being a helpful diagnostic tool.
Clutches on Audi TTs can last 100,000 miles and more. It’s an involved job both due to the tight space and the need to remove the 4x4 gubbins.
The pedal has been known to break, but it is an easy fix.
The DSG on V6s lasts if the oil is changed every 40,000 miles.
Heated leather seats were standard on the vast majority of Audi TTs, other than the basic 150bhp versions.
Seats with worn bolsters or broken heating elements aren’t worth messing about with – decent replacements are plentiful and an easy swap. However the coloured ones, especially red leather, seem increasingly scarce.
Ensure the hood operates smoothly and make sure there are no leaks. The car should be bone dry inside.
The rear of the hood isn’t designed to be completely watertight and a plastic channel between the hood and the rear body captures water and feeds it to the drains behind the B-pillars.
Popular internet wisdom will say leaks are due to blocked drain tubes but as these cars age, it’s increasingly the drip channel that’s become detached from the rear of the body. It’s a fiddly but not difficult job to repair. Don’t poke wires into the drain tubes because they’re thin, plastic and fragile.
The bonding in the corner of the roadster rear glass ’screens is starting to fail with age on some cars.
Hoods can be given a new lease of life with a clean and waterproofing product.
Roadsters often leak in the top corner of the window/A-Pillar which is caused by the seal narrowing over the years – these can be packed out with the factory spacers (or suitably cut washers!).
Factory roadster hardtops are rare – if you acquire one, make sure you get the necessary fitting kit.
If the hood stops part way up/down then it is probably the fluid level – be warned, the hydraulic pump is a nightmare to get to, buried away behind the seats and they have been known to leak, or even seize, through lack of use.
Standard brakes on an Audi TT work acceptably well, but don’t give the best feel. They benefit from upgraded pads for track or fast road use.
The braking system is complex, though, and if it runs dry when bleeding then you need VAGCOM or similar to cycle the ABS pump. Rear calipers can seize if the handbrake is left on for prolonged periods of storage.
Quattro 4WD system
Despite what pub experts tell you, a TT isn’t full time four-wheel drive. It’s predominantly front-wheel drive and uses an electronically controlled Haldex unit to send power to the back wheels when slip is detected.
If you intend to use your TT on track then you might find the four-wheel drive kicking in and out quite disconcerting, especially on tight, twisty circuits. The solution is either an electronic Haldex controller or a cheap and cheerful one-way valve that locks the 4WD in the ‘on’ position once it’s kicked in.
None of this is necessary for normal everyday use, but both seem robust, long-term solutions, despite internet doom-mongers. The Haldex oil should be changed every 20,000 miles, the filter every 40,000 miles.
Check the washer jets, (referred to by TT fans as ‘aliens’!) are working – they’re an MoT fail if not on all cars with xenons (all 225s). And make sure the engine undertray is in place and properly affixed.
The front lights fade badly and go cloudy. They can be restored with various proprietary products and give the car a real lift when done properly, as well as improving lighting.
Audi TT (Mk1): on the road
It is surprising how modern an Audi TT Mk1 still feels, despite the fact that the oldest is now more than 20 years old.
It will easily keep up with modern traffic and the only noticeable shortfall will be the lack of a modern infotainment system. The factory sound systems, especially those with the optional Bose speakers and amp, sound great and can be retrofitted with Bluetooth modules and hands-free kits that replace the CD changer function.
Fuel economy is late 20s to early 30s when sensibly driven – the problem is they go so well, grip so much, make such a great noise and are so much fun that you find yourself using the available power. Driven spiritedly expect early 20s mpg. All this combined with decent ride quality and relatively low road noise makes a TT a daily driver candidate.
For the time being at least, TTs are still plentiful. Buy the best example you can find based on condition rather than purely on mileage. A well serviced and regularly driven car can be a much better proposition than a lower mileage dog.
A good TT is a wonderful, enjoyable car that well deserves its modern-classic status. A bad example will have you chasing niggly faults and can be a money pit – that’s why so many are currently being broken for parts.
The really low mileage versions are starting to come out of the woodwork at premium prices, but there are still so many out there that buyers can afford to be choosy. Buy the best you can afford and budget for some initial work to get it up to scratch. Rustproof the sills and change the cambelt.
Whilst the 225 is the most common, there was a special-edition Quattro Sport which had a handy 240bhp. This run-out model lost the back seats, had a two-tone colour scheme and optional Recaro bucket seats.
They’ve been slow to gather the additional value their rarity should command, partly because they aren’t really that much different to the 225 on which they are based. Originality is likely to enhance the value on what will eventually become the ultimate Mk1 Audi TT.
At present, any Mk1 TT seems remarkable value for money, offering style and performance in spades, with cheap and plentiful new and used parts supply.
Buy a good one now and it will be free motoring for the next few years and surely must eventually start to climb in value. In the meantime it’s a performance car bargain to be enjoyed both from behind the wheel and for its design that was so close to the original concept car.
Audi TT (Mk1) price guide
- Show: £7000
- Average: £4000
- Restoration: £1500
3.2 Coupé Sport
- Show: £9000
- Average: £5000
- Restoration: £2000
- Show: £3500
- Average: £2750
- Restoration: £1000
- Show: £4000
- Average: £3000
- Restoration: £1000
Audi TT (Mk1) history
1995 TT Concept Coupé unveiled at Frankfurt Show and Roadster at Tokyo Show
1998 Sep TT Coupé 2+2 launched, as 180PS (16in wheels, five-speed ’box) or 225PS (17s, 6-speed)
1999 TT Roadster introduced
2000 Mar Recall to fit ESP, uprated front suspension arms and rear spoiler
2000 Sep six-speed gearbox standardised on all 180s and 225s
2001 Nov S-Line 225 Coupé: red or silver, leather seats, 18in alloys, lowered suspension
2002 Jan 18in rims and lowered suspension on all 180s and 225s
2002 Nov Coupé quattro 3.2 V6 added: Direct Shift Gearbox, bigger brakes, different front bumper and rear valance, larger rear spoiler
2003 Apr Roadster 150 (front-wheel drive, five-speed, more boot space) and Roadster quattro 3.2 released
2003 Dec 3.2 available as manual
2004 New front-drive 180, optional Tiptronic ’box
2005 Mar Coupé quattro Sport: 49kg lighter, 240PS (236bhp)
2005 Sep 150PS engine up to 163PS, 180PS to 190PS; 225PS options phased out
2006 Apr TT Mk1 replaced
The owner’s view
“I bought my Roadster from a main dealer in ’03,” recalls owner Mike Edwards. “Initially I was disappointed: it was much more modern and quicker than my old Coupé quattro, and the ability to drop the roof helped, but it somehow wasn’t as nice. 12 years on, I’ve got used to its limitations; it’s surprising how much can be carried in the boot or inside.
“I’ve had the clutch pedal snap; I’ve replaced the rear springs four or five times, and most front suspension bushes and joints – all easy DiY jobs. It has rusty arches on one side, which I assume is down to damage before I bought it. I’m surprised how much of the underside has rusty edges: hard to keep on top of, but largely cosmetic. My roof once lost the ability to open and close, and was repaired by the Audi agent at some cost.”
Slightly outclassed by the TT in drivability, the Alfa rival (also 1.8 ‘four’ to 3.2 V6) oozed character, sounded great and housed a fabulous engine. If heart rules head, you might go for this.
Sold 1993-’04 • No. built 80,747 • Mpg 23-36 • 0-60mph 9.2-6.3 secs • Top speed 130-158mph • Price new £19,715-26,340 (’01) • Price now £3-10,000
A more accomplished sports car, but it’s easy to get caught out with a moneypit in this price range. Intoxicating flat-six sound, plus it’s superb to drive; S reclaimed the performance crown, too.
Sold 1996-’04 • No. built 164,874 • Mpg 25-37 • 0-60mph 6.5-5.7 secs • Top speed 139-165mph • Price new £31,450-38,330 (’01) • Price now £5-15,000
Audi TT (Mk1): the Classic & Sports Car verdict
There’s a wide choice of TT models, so understand them and decide which suits you best before going out to look.
As with any well-built modern, problems are few and, because of tight production tolerances, if there are any faults all examples will suffer them. Beware cheap cars; go for one that’s been well looked after – it will save you thousands in the long run.
- Great Bauhaus looks
- Strong enthusiast following
- Excellent performance and handling
- Good parts and specialist back-up
- Interior is a bit plasticky
- Some have been crudely modified
- Complexity means non-routine jobs are costly
- ‘Bargains’ might have patchy service history
Audi TT (Mk1) specifications
- Sold/number built 1998-’06/275,339 (184,041 Coupé)
- Construction steel monocoque
- Engine iron-block, alloy-head dohc 20v 1781cc ‘four’, Bosch Motronic and KKK K04 turbo, or all-alloy dohc 24v 3189cc V6 with Bosch Motronic; 148bhp @ 5700rpm-246bhp @ 6300rpm; 155lb ft @ 1750rpm-236lb ft @ 2800rpm
- Transmission five-/six-speed manual or DSG semi-automatic, Haldex four-wheel drive
- Suspension: front MacPherson struts rear double wishbones, coil springs; telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar f/r
- Steering power-assisted rack and pinion, 2.8 turns lock-to-lock
- Brakes 312mm ventilated discs front, 226mm rear (V6 334/365mm), with servo and anti-lock
- Length 13ft 3in (4041mm)
- Width 6ft 1in (1856mm)
- Height 4ft 5in (1345mm)
- Wheelbase 7ft 11½in (2429mm)
- Weight 2816-3505lb (1280-1590kg)
- 0-60mph 8.6-5.7 secs
- Top speed 133-155mph
- Mpg 23-35
- Price new £24,050-29,000 (2001)